A Body Image Breakthrough?
Meghan Trainor sings she’s ‘bringing booty back’ in her new hit song “All About That Bass.” Some say it’s a fun, catchy tune that boldly promotes body acceptance – or body celebration – even if you aren’t a “size two.” Other say that it reinforces a superficial and misogynistic view of women.
The positive message of this controversial song may be in doubt – but with over 18 million views on YouTube (and climbing) and roughly half a million in sales in less than two months since making her debut, it’s obvious that the 20-year-old pop phenom has struck a powerful chord with young girls. “Bass” has rocketed it to Billboard’s Number One on Digital Songs, while displacing such pros as Jessie J, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj and Iggy Azalea.
Critiquing The Message and the Messenger
With society’s pressure on women and girls to look a certain way, “Bass” appears to be – at first blush – one young woman’s rebellious anthem that has quickly cultivated an enthusiastic following. According to Trainor, the song is meant as a declarative statement that sexy doesn’t come in one size, and women of all shapes have a right to feel good about their bodies.
“When writing the song, I was thinking about girls today…and the message of the song is to love your body no matter what,” said Meghan.
Some critics, however, say “Bass” perpetuates misogynistic stereotypes and opens itself up to ridicule. One blogger, Jenny Trout, questions why this song is being touted as positive message for women in the first place, and points out male bands who have covered the song “up the ante on the misogyny and body shaming” in their versions:
Former X-Factor competitors Emblem3 have covered “All About That Bass.” See how you feel about lines like, “Us guys like a little more booty to hold at night,” and “It’s pretty clear she ain’t no size two/but she can shake it shake it/the way she’s supposed to do,” when you’re listening to young men sing them…Are we supposed to applaud this? It’s positive to hear young men trash “skinny bitches,” just so some women can feel better about not fulfilling a standard of beauty they’re longing for? ~ Trout Nation
Good point, but is Trainor to blame for not being progressive enough or in the ‘right’ way? Does “Bass” deserve to be ridiculed because male bands have chosen to do so?
Perhaps this song is just a sad reflection of our society. The reality is that teen girls are preoccupied with wanting to be attractive and sexy to boys, and if their bodies aren’t a socially acceptable size, they can face horrendous weight stigma and bullying that leaves them vulnerable to eating disorders and long-term psychological damage.
Loving Our Bodies
Trainor relates how some young girls who have been bullied say they’ve found solace and hope in her lyrics:
“I tear up and I call my mom like, ‘Did you see that? Did you read that one?’ because some girls are like, ‘I’ve hated myself. I hated life. I didn’t want to go to school. I get bullied. And then I heard your song and I cried,'” said Meghan. “They say they cried because they’re happy and they dance around the room. And I was just like, ‘What?’ It’s crazy.”
Yes, it is crazy. Our society has a mental illness when it comes to women and weight. Isn’t it crazy that a song that champions the sexiness of average-to-large body sizes is seen as a breakthrough?
Society Sorely Lacking In Positive Body Images
The “skinny bitches” lyric is getting a lot of attention, but Trainor also points out how society isn’t doing enough to change how it portrays women in the media:
I see the magazines working that Photoshop
We know that shit ain’t real
Come on now, make it stop
As consumers, we have a lot of power we aren’t exercising. How long would it take for women’s magazines to change their imagery if we started a boycott? By buying – and buying into – the thin-crazed media message, women are their own worst enemies. Talk about reinforcing misogynistic stereotypes!
When Body Positivity Feels Impossible
I know you think you’re fat,
But I’m here to tell you that,
Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top!
Would “Bass” have risen to number one on the charts with a different beat or melody? Perhaps not. Are there other songs by female artist that do a better job of promoting body acceptance without playing into stereotypes? I’m sure there are, but that doesn’t explain why this particular song has gone viral.
“Bass” Apparently Fills A Body Positivity Void
Ultimately, the song’s popularity with fans – who are calling themselves “Megatrons” – demonstrates how desperate teen girls are to feel good about their bodies. Meghan herself laments how she could have used a song like hers when she faced peer pressure and body image issues in school:
“I wish there was a song like this when I was 13,” said Meghan, admitting that she’s not always confident. “It’s all mostly in my head. I would sit there in class like, ‘I know they are judging me right now. I know they’re picking on me.’ So it helped me a lot, watching this video and seeing the comments that were positive.”
Whether you think the song is deserving of being dubbed a “body acceptance breakthrough” is up to you. For me, the positive aspect of “Bass” is that it has generated global discourse on body image, body acceptance and weight stigma. People are talking about these issues from all sides and perspectives. And clearly, as a society, we need to have that discussion.
You Decide: Watch the “All About That Bass” Music Video
Read the full All About That Base lyrics here.
Is “All About That Bass” is a positive or negative message for women? Why do you think it’s so popular?
Learn More About Our Young Women’s Program